It took 12 rounds of violent action from Las Vegas, but Manny Pacquiao seized the moment in perhaps the biggest rematch in boxing history and took down Timothy Bradley—who didn't do himself any favors with strange, perhaps cocky, antics throughout.
There's no conversation to be had. No controversy. No room for third parties to come in and review the results. Nothing.
Bradley did this to himself.
Things started great. Bradley was the aggressor and staggered Pacquiao multiple times. To the naked eye, the fighters split the opening four rounds, 2-2.
Bradley had the look of a fighter taking the next step in his stellar career. He was faster, on the attack and unflinching in his strategy. Pacquiao wasn't bad, but he did look old.
Something drastically changed in the fifth round.
Coming off a round in which he seriously staggered Pacquiao unlike most haven't seen since his knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley simply appeared to take his foot off the gas.
"Now Timothy Bradley is slowing down a little bit. Now Manny Pacquiao can get back into his normal rhythm." - @RealRoyJonesJr— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) April 13, 2014
No more aggression. Instead, Bradley began goading Pacquiao into an attack so he could hit a home run. Create his legend. Cement himself. End a career.
It backfired. The last 15 seconds of the fifth round saw Bradley taunt with his gloves and goad the crowd. He did the same in the sixth.
Ditto for the seventh.
Meanwhile, the match got worse. Pacquiao remained resilient, stringing combos together and starting to attack. Bradley was no longer the aggressor; he was someone swinging for the fences as if it were his only hope.
No more taunts as Round 8 ended. As the announcers asked on the HBO broadcast, "What did Bradley do to win it?"
It's as if Bradley pretended to be someone he's not in the biggest match of his life. By the time he realized he was behind in the cards—much to the anger of his corner after his hot start—his only hope was to land a miracle shot.
The fans knew it. Bradley and his corner knew it—as did Pacquiao. He did well to dodge all advances while putting his expertise to use via smooth counters to stay ahead the rest of the way.
Bradley entered the fight looking to prove himself, and that's fine. There's something admirable about that, especially after he left the last decision in the hands of a third party, and it was subsequently botched. But Bradley wound up looking silly and as if he belonged in a WWE ring, not a boxing ring.
Showtime's Al Bernstein and ESPN's Brian Campbell put it best:
Bradley is winning the posturing battle, losing the boxing match— Al Bernstein (@AlBernstein) April 13, 2014
Not sure what Bradley is doing here. Pacquiao continues to control these rounds and outland him.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) April 13, 2014
But the antics didn't stop during with the final bell. In the post-fight interview, Bradley then spoke of a leg injury:
"No excuses, but I suffered a leg injury, I know people won't believe me," Bradley— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) April 13, 2014
Validity aside, it's a bad look in tandem with the course of his actions in the ring.
With the way the fight unfolded in the first few rounds, Bradley could have very well forced another controversial decision because he was step-for-step with Pacquiao. He wanted to prevent that—and did.
It's a reality check Bradley may never be able to bounce back from as the first fight isn't exactly remembered in a positive light, either. One would think in the biggest fight of his career, Bradley would have not played a showman and instead kept his foot on the pedal all 12 rounds.
Instead, fans are left wondering what could have been. Regardless of the reason, Bradley's approach on Saturday night leaves something to be desired in a fight that wound up a tad lopsided after a superb start.